What the Democratic Wave Is Actually About

By Bill Phan


You’ve probably heard a lot about an imminent “Democratic wave”. As the Democratic party rejoiced with election after election showing their chances of taking back both chambers of Congress climbing, you might wonder if this “wave” really is a wave or just another ripple in the turbulent ocean that is American politics.

Historically the party in power has received losses in midterms and specials. Bloomberg points out in an article that “Since the end of World War II, the party in control of the White House has, on average, had a net loss of 26 House seats in midterm elections”.

This might then make the “Democratic wave” look less important or impactful in the long run, but in American politics, any change can set off more and more changes, creating a snowball of election wins.

Three important special elections so far can help point to the source of this wave: the Alabama US Senate special election in December 2017, the Pennsylvania House special election in March 2018, and the Arizona House special election just last month.

All three elections show Democrats over-performing in deep red states. Trump won Alabama by 62.9%, Pennsylvania by 48.8%, and Arizona by 49.5%, according to Politico.

Even though these results would seem to show that these counties are in Trump country, these three elections seem to show the opposite. Conor Lamb (D) won Pennsylvania’s 8th with 49.8% of the vote (The New York Times), Doug Jones (D) won the Alabama race with 49.9% of the vote. Meanwhile, Hiral Tipirneni (D) lost to Republican Debbie Lesko by a mere 5.2 points (Politico), a margin even more intriguing when we again remember that Arizona was a very red state in the 2016 election.

What does all of this mean? It means that Democrats are gaining support from across the country. They were further excited by the retirement announcement of House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin). His retirement is kept company with 40 House Republicans announcing their departure, Bloomberg reported.

With House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announcing her run for Ryan’s position, Democrats are further energized by what Bloomberg called “a confluence of evidence indicating a so-called wave election may be building that would allow Democrats to wrest the House of Representatives from Republican control”.

With the waves come a huge surge in the number of women running for office. A report by Vox stated that 309 women from both parties have submitted papers to run for the House of Representatives in the midterms. Yet we are not seeing this kind of heightened political activity on the other side of the aisle. In fact, political participation in the Republican Party by women is showing a downward trend, not an upward trend.

The midterms and special elections are pretty exciting times, at least for all of the policy and politics geeks out there. But as citizens and patriots, we should always remember that these elections have the potential to affect all of us, not just the ones paying attention.